So the 2012 NAIS Annual Conference is going on in Seattle, and I’m still in Dallas. I think I’ve missed only two of these in the past couple of decades, so it feels rather strange. And this year’s program looked particularly inviting. So I’m really kind of bummed not to be there. However, it simply wasn’t a good time to get away because of too many things happening at once. Plus this Friday night is our annual gala, which our fabulous PA puts on every year and will be spectacular. So if I’m going to miss, it’s for a great reason.
I’ve been trying to follow the conference a bit through various means. Conference bloggers, other blogs, Chris Bigenho’s Daily Find, the Twitter stream, the community portal—there certainly is no shortage of ways to get information about the conference. But I’m not there, and so I don’t get to revel in the real power of the conference. I’m not bumping into former colleagues and old friends at random. I don’t get to enjoy leisurely, delicious meals with favorite people. I can’t check in with folks from my New Heads workshop and see how they are doing. I can’t feel the energetic idealism that fills the conference center.
And in getting my information, it’s hard to sort through all the pieces and pull out meaning. For one thing, while many of the tweets resonate, from the outside many seem so unimportant. And no matter how good they are, how thoughtful a blog post may be, it still lacks context and the filtering weakens the personal experience. I want the direct experience, and I want the human contact.
So in what I guess is a certain irony, so much of the conference is about educational leaders learning and growing. Particularly this year when the theme is Innovation. As part of that, I gather that there has been quite a bit of talk about leveraging social media in schools. I’m not opposed to that at all. Yet, while my experience is not optimal to how this might be done in a school, I very much see the limitations coming clear. So as much as I’m about re-inventing many parts of school, I want to throw a note of caution into the discussion. This is where the irony comes in. I’m not at the conference, but I’ve been reminded of something very important.
As we talk about innovation and social media and on-line learning, let’s make sure that we never lose what makes independent schools truly remarkable, life-transforming places. It’s that they are so human, so much about the right people in the right places doing the right things. No technology, however well utilized, can adequately replace that.